I started out with a set of issues and challenges to adapt to. When there is an injury, surgery or other change in circumstance, I adapt. I am changed each time, and each change is a link in a chain. It’s not a ripple in a pond that will still itself again.
Most of the time, it doesn’t matter. Most of the time no one mentions it. It just is. The sky is blue, the Earth is round and I walk funny.
I don’t exaggerate; it is usually of very little consequence or importance. There are moments, days, or even stretches of time when it does matter. Times when someone says something that brings it to the forefront in a way it doesn’t deserve to be often. If a friend of mine adapts to a challenge and then laughs about it (like it’s the most ridiculous thing ever), I might find myself thinking “Oh, yeah I’m different than you.” Those kinds of stories resonate because my disabled mom friends and I have made those adaptations to cope without a second thought. When someone rails against keeping a toddler on a lead. When someone talks about me like I’m a decorated war hero for taking my kid to the playground. It matters.
I’m not saying it should never matter – of course it matters sometimes. It matters greatly sometimes. My existence is different than a lot people I know. I live in a physical flux. I am not a normal specimen of humanity. I have not been injured and recovered back to some magical epicenter of functionality. I started out with a set of issues and challenges to adapt to. When there is an injury, surgery or other change in circumstance, I adapt. I am changed each time, and each change is a link in a chain. It’s not a ripple in a pond that will still itself again.
It’s not linear. Injuries, healing, back to normal? Not quite. Yesterday, you saw me hobbling around unaided by crutches and today I’m in the wheelchair? In your world it means there’s something wrong, but in mine it’s day-to-day adaptation. I’m not “getting worse”, I’m coping with uneven terrain, distance, a swollen joint, a speedy preschooler. I just didn’t feel like walking/finding my other crutch, needed both hands, wanted to wear a bigger purse. You change clothes, I change my method of mobility (or whatever else is needed). You take Aspirin for a headache, I walk less when I need to.
I’m not saying it’s never linear. Particularly after surgery there is a reasonable progression, but in my day to day life things are always changing. Please don’t take any of my comparisons here as hostility – on the contrary, I adore all my able-bodied friends and fans so much that I felt I could share. I am not trying to elicit pity from you. I see what is different between us which is tricky when so much is the same.
Maybe I’m just permitting myself to record a stream of consciousness with no real significance to anyone but me. In which case I’ll indulge further and say I don’t have any aspirations to be “other” than I am. We all have struggles, it makes us human. I never seriously longed for a “cure” from what is, as I stated at the start, simply a fact of my existence like any other.
It’s all in the “eye of the beholder”, as Rod Sterling so nicely put it, it is merely “an accident of birth.”
-Reprinted with permission from the Hedgehog Blog